March 3, 2008
Sharing the Good News
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
Rule number one of polite conversation: Never talk about religion or politics.
I was on a train from New York to Richmond when a young man took the seat next to me. At first, we kept to ourselves, I immersed in St. Therese's Story of a Soul and he flipping through a magazine. At some point in the 7-hour journey, he glanced at the cover of my book, and observing the black-and-white picture of a nun on the cover, inquired about my faith.
I affirmed, that yes, I was Christian. He looked at my youthful features and back at the old-fashioned book.
"Interesting. I don't know much about your religion."
"What's your background?"
I eyed his American clothing, short hair, and clean-shaven face. Now I was intrigued.
"Really? How did 9-11 affect you?"
The question slipped out before I had time to think. But what unfolded was one of the most fascinating conversations I've ever been a part of. I learned this young American was unsure of his beliefs, and that back at college he was dating a girl from a Christian background who also struggled. He had many questions about why a young person like me would, with such calm certainty, decide to commit my life to Christ - even when it meant living differently than my peers.
Looking back on that conversation, I see it was the work of the Holy Spirit that allowed me, an introvert, to delve into those tough topics with such ease and clarity with a complete stranger. I also marvel at the fact that he seemed just as comfortable as I was. We parted ways upon the train's arrival to Richmond, wishing each other the best in life.
As believers, we're called to share the Gospel with those who have not embraced Christ (Mt 28: 18-20). But in today's cultural climate, opening up about issues of faith can feel intimidating. I know at times I've struggled to speak up, but the conversation on that train proved to me that it doesn't require a Ph.D. in apologetics or an ordination from an impressive seminary to effectively discuss matters of faith. In fact, lay people like you and me can have a powerful impact on many.
Here are a few lessons I've learned in the past several years that may be of help to you:
Respect. I am increasingly seeing that true evangelizing is more about relationship than "rightness." Few people respond well to pushy preaching or pride-filled debates. Show a genuine interest in and respect for others' ideas and beliefs - even if you don't agree with them.
Be yourself. Share your faith in a way that is natural to you and to the other person. Don't feel pressured to throw around fancy words or tell miraculous tales if that's not how you normally talk. God loves to work through our gifts - I have one friend whose beautiful singing voice has inspired many to seek a closer relationship with God.
Be knowledgeable. While we don't need to be scholars, I find the more I know about key tenets of my faith, the more I have to offer when a door opens for discussion. Don't know the answer to something? Find it. Constantly expand your knowledge so that you will "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you." (1 Pe 3: 15)
Remember that Christ is the only Savior. While it is our job to share what God has done for us, it's not our job to convince a person to become Christian. Conversion is an individual's free will response to God's grace, not a product of coercion.
And lastly, for those of us who are really shy about speaking up about the faith, you may appreciate St. Francis of Assisi's approach:
"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."
If you and I seek to live godly lives, who knows how many people could come to know Christ through our actions alone?
Intersecting Faith & Life: Learn one new thing about your faith this week - perhaps a tidbit of Church history or a new Scripture verse - and share it with someone.